Thursday, August 29, 2013

Yay! Long weekend. Enjoy!

No post today just my best wishes for a great weekend.

If you love notebooks, check out last week's post, one of my most popular evah!

If you're in the mood for a good book, why not try one of mine or one by Anne R. Allen?

Other than that, stay safe and have a blast!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My name is Ruth and I'm addicted. To notebooks.

Because no writer ever knows when his/her next great idea will strike, I am surrounded by notebooks. On my desk, at my place on the dining room table, on my night table, in my bag, in pockets and purses. Made in the U.S., France, Germany, Japan. Wherever I go, I love to browse stationery and office supply stores and now that back-to-school shopping is in full swing, I will indulge my obsession with notebooks. Here are some of my faves:

"I'm not writing it down to remember it later.
I'm writing it down to remember it now."
Field Notes
Love the color!
Rollbahn, despite the German-sounding
 name, is Japanese.
German and superb quality. Amazon has them here.
I've used Rhodia notebooks for years. Widely available.
 I get them at my local stationery store but Amazon has them here.
Moleskine in snappy Hermès orange.  Here.
Kokuyo makes beautifully designed notebooks.
 I first found them in a Japanese store in NYC
 but Amazon has them as does Jetpens.
Clairfontaine is also widely available.
If I were French, I probably would have used these in school.

I am relieved to report that I am not alone in my notebook obsession. There's an entire blog devoted to notebooks here. Must reading!

Office Supply Geek, obsessed with all things office, dedicates time and space to notebooks here. More must-reading for the notebook obsessed.

Do you have a favorite notebook? Are you obsessed? Is there a notebook I haven't mentioned that I absolutely must have? Please do share in the comments.

These notes of mine end up in books so here's the pitch:
Award-winning historical romance and USA Today Bestselling contemporary romance winner, Vanessa Kelly's take on The Chanel Caper in Love Rocks.

"Set primarily in the world of fashion and advertising in New York City, THE CHANEL CAPER features a fifty-six year old heroine who is smart, sardonic, and whose marriage to her sexy, ex-cop husband has hit a rough patch. Blake Weston makes for a fabulous heroine, watching in some bemusement as her husband Ralph, now head of security for a large international corporation, goes into mid-life crisis. For Ralph, this involves extreme workouts in an effort to recapture his youthful vigor, a new wardrobe, and a flirtation with a bombshell war correspondent doing everything she can to get Ralph between the sheets. Blake, naturally, has no intention of allowing her beloved husband of twenty-five years to slip away from her.

"In an ongoing effort to upmarket her own outdated style and rekindle some romance in her marriage, Blake buys a faux Chanel handbag from a street vendor. This sets off a chain of wild events that includes murder, explosions, counterfeit drug rings, and the pursuit of suspects and warlords from Shanghai to Afghanistan. The Chanel Caper is a romantic comedy, a thriller, and a send-up of the big city lifestyle in the wake of the global financial crisis. All the disparate elements of this very funny story are tethered by the engaging Blake, a smart, sensible, and dryly witty heroine intent on saving her marriage. It’s definitely a romance for the grownups, set against the backdrop of the bright lights of the city that never sleeps."

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Downhill (or not what it used to be). Not that I'm in such great shape, either.

From Edward R. Murrow to Wolf Blitzer.
From Audrey Hepburn to Lindsay Lohan.
From JP Morgan to Bernie Madoff.
From Julia Child to Paula Deen.
From Ernest Hemingway to EL James.
From Dr. Freud to Dr. Phil.
From Rockefeller and Vanderbilt to The Donald.
No wonder I’m so p*ssed off. Not just because pretty soon I’m going to turn sixty and not just today but just about all the time and just about everywhere.
On line at the supermarket where I have to pack my own groceries.
At the gas station where I have to pump my own gas.
On hold listening to the robot telling me my call is important.
At the twenty minutes of trailers and commercials that precede every movie.
At the ads that precede internet videos.
At cellphones and their rude, clueless users.
At Metro cards that don’t work on first swipe, at double length buses that make Manhattan’s terrible traffic worse.
At a decade that began with Enron and ended with Bernie Madoff & Too Big To Fail.
You name it, it bugged me.
And, right now, you could add Ralph to the list.

Just because we’d been married since about forever did it really mean he had to go on a diet, start exercising, and buy a fancy new wardrobe?
How come he had more—and more expensive—beauty products than I did?
Since when did he spend more time in front of the mirror than I did?
Was it really fair that, almost sixty, he looked like Gregory Peck while I, just a few years younger, was beginning to look like Phyllis Diller?
Why did women who weren’t even born the year we got married look at Ralph with goo-goo eyes and why did Ralph have to look back?
“The male menobleep,” diagnosed Julia Makins, my bff who’d been married three times, divorced twice and widowed once.
Still, I wondered what happened to Ralph and me. The sizzle was gone, domesticity had set in, time and gravity had had their way with both of us.
Or was it just me?

I remember college like it was yesterday and our first apartment, a fourth floor walkup, in a neighborhood so crummy local gang members wouldn’t even hang out there. I remember my first job at Click magazine and the day Ralph retired from the NYPD. I remember when and why George Profett, the city’s most neurotic billionaire, hired Ralph to be his Vice President in charge of Security.
I remember all those things—and more—but the more important question is how did I get to be almost sixty?
What happened to all those years between college and now? How did they go by so fast? What was I doing? Why didn’t I notice?
When, exactly, did I get to be invisible?
When did empty taxis start passing me by and when did the feral perfume ladies in Bloomingdale’s no longer bother to assault me with a spritz? 
When, exactly, did people stop listening to me—even when I knew more about the subject at hand than anyone else in the room?
When did my shoe size go from 7 to 8 and my bra size from 34 to 36 even though I hadn’t gained weight (well, not much, anyway)?
When did I stop reading Vogue and start sleeping in flannel pajamas all year because our apartment was cold in the winter and Ralph blasted the air conditioner in the summer?
Was I one of those women who had let herself go?
Was I about to get dumped for someone newer and younger?
Did I need bikini boot camp, a face lift, a Brazilian wax?
Would a new hair color, a different shade of lipstick or a pair of crotchless panties get Ralph to pay attention to me?
As it turned out, not one of those things made a damn bit of difference. What made the difference was murder in Shanghai, a dire threat from Billionaire George delivered in a cheapo Vietnamese restaurant, a gung-ho war correspondent with a humongous pair of 36 Double D’s, a washed-up Martha Stewart wannabe trying to make a come back with the help of a red balconette bra and a showdown with a one-eyed, one-lagged Afghan warlord who didn’t speak a word of English.
It all began the day I bought a fake Chanel bag from a sidewalk vendor on East Fifty-third Street. I was thrilled with my purchase and knew Ralph, a label snob, would be impressed. Anxious to show off my new bag, I headed for the office, moving faster than I had in years.
So fast, I didn’t notice I was being followed.

So, readers, how has it been for you? Are you getting older? Or better? Please share in the comments. I'm listening.

If you liked that, you'll (probably) like this

Amazon  |  Amazon UK  |  Nook  |  Kobo  |  iBooks

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Writer's Toolbox: Must-Haves for Today's Author, with Links to FREE Downloads

As a follow up to Anne R. Allen’s recent post, How To Get A Book Published, I listed the must-haves and the beyond-the-basics that belong in every writer’s toolbox last week on Anne's blog. Since so many found the information helpful, I thought I would publish an encore here for those who missed it first time around.

Even writers just starting out will probably already have at least some of these tools, but there is so much out there on the web with new stuff appearing constantly, much of it FREE, that we want to round up what’s currently available.

The tools vary in cost from pricey to moderate (usually meaning around $35 or $40) to modest (under $10) and many are FREE. Most of the paid apps offer generous try-before-you-buy terms and conduct occasional sales or specials. All provide tutorials, on-line manuals, user forums and/or reviews on-line.

The popularity of ebooks and self publishing has also caused a revolution in word processors. They have evolved far beyond the usual spell check and grammar check. Most can compile your book or short story into epub and mobi files and some even give you the tools to create your cover.


MSWord is the Big Kahuna, the most basic word processor of all and comes in versions for the PC and the Mac. For years MSWord has been the industry classic: the app editors and agents prefer. Has its lovers and haters but it’s powerful, sometimes kind of klutzy, and can do just about anything.

In addition to all the word processing basics, MSWord can format your book into epub and mobi files for upload. India Drummond, an indie publisher, has created an excellent video tutorial here.

MSWord also provides the tools that will allow you to create your cover. I did say it was powerful, didn’t I? Here’s one on-line tutorial about making a cover in MSWord. 

Scrivener comes in PC and Mac versions and is coming—soon! everyone hopes—for iOS. Almost infinitely flexible, Scriv is a must-have for many writers including me. If you’ve never used Scriv, there’s a bit of a learning curve but it’s quite intuitive and very logical once you get the hang of it.

The manual is extensive, the video tutorials are excellent and the help forumis outstanding. Keith Blount, Scriv’s developer, often appears to answer questions and his savvy crew is responsive and will walk you through any dilemmas.

Like MSWord, Scriv compiles to both epub and mobi and does it so fast that at first I thought nothing happened and I’d done something wrong. Bottom line: 5 stars all the way.

Nisus (pronounced Nice-us, for Mac only) is a less well known but superb word processor, one I’ve used for years. Moderately priced Nisus works well with Scriv, it’s elegant but powerful, very stable, and you can compile your epubs and mobis from within the Pro version. Their user forum is terrific and Martin—I think he’s one of the developers—is there to answer questions and help troubleshoot.

Atlantis (PC oriented) is a full-featured, moderately-priced MSWord lookalike. Comes with a try-before-you-buy offer, offers on-line help and user’s forum. Atlantis can do much of what MSWord does including turn your text into an epub or mobi file.

Google Documents is cloud based, fast, responsive, and FREE. Google docs does its job well and is particularly useful for collaborators who can log in from different locations and work together. Since Docs is cloud based, you get off-site back up along with a fine basic word processor.

Pages (Mac only) is iOS native, a modestly priced ($9.99) word processor to use on your iPad, iPhone, iPod. Pages also compiles to epub and mobi.

In addition to the brand names listed above, there are also FREE word processors available on-line. You will find a round up plus reviews of FREE word processors for the PC here. 

FREE for the Mac is a clean and simple word processor called Bean.


You do back up, don’t you? Because if you don’t you’d better start NOW! (For a tragic, cautionary tale, here's a story from the Kindleboards about a writer whose laptop was stolen from his car recently.)

Dropbox is so ubiquitous and so essential for off-site back up that it’s a must-have. It’s FREE, creates one file in the cloud and another on your desktop as you work. DB also synchs all your devices and works seamlessly with both mobile and desktop apps.

Microsoft offers FREE cloud storage called SkyDrive and Apple’s version is called (guess what?) iCloud. Google’s cloud storage, Drive, is also FREE and works on all popular systems.

MozyCarbonite, and CrashPlan are remote backup services. All offer a FREE trial and various subscription plans for personal and business back up.

In the two weeks since I wrote the post, more FREE apps have come to my attention. Today (August 8, 2013)  The New York Times profiles three of them: Box, Cubby, and CloudMagic. The deets are here.

Publishing blogger Passive Guy—he’s worked on computers for thirty years and knows first hand the soul-searing tragedy of lost work—details his belts-and-suspenders back up method here.


Evernote is a powerful, FREE note keeping app that works on all platforms. Searchable by keyword or tags, includes reminder and web clipping functions, great for keeping research including images, for brainstorming ideas, for parking stuff you’re not yet sure what to do with. Cloud-based, syncs across all your devices. I consider Dropbox (or some form of cloud backup system) and Evernote indispensable.

Blogger Elizabeth Joss wrote a helpful post about how she uses Evernote to get organized and be more productive.


Calibre is a FREE e-book manager that does e-book file conversion, synchs your devices and manages your library.

Sigil, another FREE download runs on Windows, Linux and Mac. Sigil lets you edit epub files and comes with an on-line manual and user forum. As far as I know, right now there is nothing similar for editing mobi files which is where Calibre comes in. You edit your epub in Sigil, then use Calibre to convert to mobi.

Jutoh (Windows, Mac, and Linux) is a moderately-priced app that creates ebooks (including covers) in all the popular file formats.


Name generators come in handy when you’re stuck for just the right name and offer suggestions appropriate for different periods of history, various ethnicities, celebrity baby names and even literary genres ranging from scifi to steampunk to vampires. Scrivener includes a name generator but there are FREE name generators on line—more here. Some also provide random personality profiles to help you along even more.

Do you have any useful to can’t-live-without apps I’ve overlooked? Anne and I want—and need—your help in building a useful writers’ resource!


This month, Anne's irresistible bestseller, Sherwood, Ltd, is 99c for Kindle USUKNook, and FREE on Smashwords and  on Kobo. And for book-sniffers, it is available in paper for the marked-down price of $8.54. (regularly $8.99 on Amazon and $12.99 in stores.)  It's also on sale in paper in the in the UK for £6.81.

"It's not yer typical whodunnit, nor is the protagonist anything like a cop. Ms. Allen has crafted a wily tale of murder, deceit, and intrigue that can stand with the best of them. Her characters are all too real and her dialogue took me from laughter to chills to suspicion of everybody in the book. Good on her!

Editorially, the book is also refreshingly well-done and all but devoid of grammatical or other such gaffes. This was obviously written by an intelligent woman who is also a fine story-teller. My congratulations to her.

My suggestion? Read this book. It will be well worth the time.
"...David Keith

Special note from Anne and me to Camilla fans: If you've enjoyed any of the Camilla books, I hope you'll consider writing a review here. Once a book makes the bestseller lists, the trolls come out. And of course, comedy is always subjective. Genuine reviews from Camilla fans would be a huge help right now.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Scene Rescue—When Collaborators Disagree & Live To Tell The Tale

Love doesn’t always run a smooth path (no kidding!) and neither does collaboration. There are inevitably going to be times when you and your co-author—in my case my DH, Michael—don’t see a character, a scene, even a line of dialogue the same way. 
Most of the time while we were writing HOOKED Michael and I were in synch but there was one scene about which we had radically different opinions. I hated it so much I deleted it. Michael, appalled, retrieved it from the trash.
The scene occurs midway through the book and involves two characters. One is Gavin Jenkins, the brilliant and charismatic doctor who is at the center of the story. The other is Adriana Partos, a world-famous concert pianist who retired at the request of her lover, billionaire tycoon, Nicky Kiskalesi. Now, however, Nicky misses Adriana’s fame and celebrity and wants her to come out of retirement.
The problem is that arthritis has made it impossible for Adriana to play without pain. Nicky, who didn’t get rich by giving up, suggests she consult Gavin Jenkins, a doctor who, it seems, can cure almost anything. Adriana, reluctant but also afraid of losing Nicky, agrees to meet with Gavin.
As the scene was originally drafted, Adriana dislikes Gavin for intuitive reasons: she finds him slick and cold although no specific reasons are given. The scene, based on her instinctive dislike, seemed weak and unconvincing to me: ergo, the delete button. Michael convinced me the scene was necessary and could be made to work.
The question was: how? I trust Michael’s opinions so we had several conversations about why I hated the scene and why he thought it essential. We finally got to an agreement point when we decided that “something” specific had to happen in the scene to validate Adriana’s dislike of Gavin, a dislike so intense that she slaps him and walks out of his consulting room.
Having no idea of what the “something” was, I went to the computer to rewrite the scene. I took out the language referring to her “intuitive” dislike of his “coldness” and “hidden” personality. When I got to the exact lines that describe Gavin taking her arm in an intimate, almost caressing way and giving her the shot for which he has become known, the words, coming straight from my unconscious to the keyboard, emerged on the screen: “You’ve never felt this good, have you?” he whispers as he presses down on the syringe and the fluid enters her vein.
That brief line of dialogue—completely unanticipated—was a result of our previous conversations about the characters and the scene and gave us the “something” we needed.
In response, Adriana slaps Gavin, he calls her a bitch and tries to give her a second (different) injection but, by then, she has left. The scene ends with her standing outside his office and remembering the bulge in his pants. Was she seeing things? Imagining things? Or did he have an erection as he administered the shot?
Since we already know about Gavin’s sexual quirks from earlier scenes, we now had a compelling scene that advances the plot, creates conflict between Adriana and the gifted doctor whose help she will need and adds a new dimension to Gavin’s intriguing, mysterious character.
Sometimes disagreement is the friction that produces the pearl. You just have to get from there to here.

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